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What is learnt about attitudes towards marriage in Act 1 of The Importance of Being Earnest.

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What is learnt about attitudes towards marriage in Act 1 'The Importance of Being Earnest', having being written in the late Victorian period, shows examples of the contemporary society's attitudes to and customs of marriage. These attitudes serve a very important role throughout the play. The problems and trials of marriage provide the basis for this play. Although this theme of the problem of marriage has featured in a number of English authors' works, for example Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde adapted the theme in order for his contemporary audience to relate to it, and so the play is quite unique. Act 1 of the play opens with Algernon holding a brief conversation with his servant Lane regarding marriage. We immediately have an insight into Algernon's life as a single man; Algernon is more concerned with money and the high life than he is with responsibility and sensibility. He sees that not having a 'first rate brand' of wine, as it was mentioned was the case in marriage, as 'demoralising'. ...read more.


He says that 'girls never marry the men they flirt with.' This is an example of one of Oscar Wilde's humorous epigrams, what is even more funny is when it is completely contradicted by what Algernon says shortly after: "The amount of women in London who flirt with their husbands is perfectly scandalous." Algernon also says a comment about divorce: "Divorces are made in Heaven". This is an inversion of the normal phrase "Marriages are made in Heaven". Divorce would have being a topic up for much debate at the time not only because of the issue of money but also that women were basically subservient to men, which meant that women would have had limited rights. However, this is not an issue in the play as women's role in society in 'The Importance of Being Earnest' is portrayed as quite the opposite; all the women have more money than the male characters and seem to get the 'upper-hand' over men. For example, Lady Bracknell sends her husband to dine alone in the bedroom if Lady Bracknell's 'table is out' at her dinner parties. ...read more.


This quotation is funny as it has an element of truth but is going beyond the normal customs. It is true that the parents would have had a lot of influence of the husband of their daughters but the girl would have an idea of who he would be. It was more a matter of agreement than completely arranging the whole thing with the girl being oblivious to it all. Gwendolen's reasons for wanting to marry Jack are quite absurd. She illustrates that she loves Jack mainly because she thinks his name is Ernest. She says that 'the only safe name is Ernest'. She is being ridiculous in thinking that the fact that a newborn baby's character would be determined by the name he had been given. Whilst her mother is basing her decision on Jacks money, status and birthright; Gwendolen is basing her marriage on a name. Even though the later seems the more absurd, Wilde may also be demonstrating that permitting marriage on the grounds of birthright is just as ridiculous as it is true that one cannot help what one is named or into which family one is born. ...read more.

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